11/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Obama's Gandhi Mojo

Many of my friends, formerly thrilled with the election of Barack Obama, are now grumbling about his being too nice. They feel he should be fighting back, not compromising his agenda, and that he should play by the rules of the opposition in which anything goes. These same folks were a little irritated with him when he was handling Hilary with kid gloves during the campaign, but at least that worked out well for him (and us). However, they have grown tired of his playing by cricket rules in a Mad Max arena. They feel that the time for diplomacy is over and what we need now is a warrior, not a diplomat.

I sit on the fence with this. As a longtime student of Gandhian principles, I know that history has plenty of cases wherein intelligence, education, and kindness prevail over ignorance, fear, and cruelty. However, I also know there are many moments in history where the bad guys just had to be stopped by whatever means. I have never resolved this question in myself (does one ever give up on conversation and get out the big guns; and if so, when?). But I have noticed that when success comes through diplomacy I feel a lot more confident in the sticking power of that success. And I feel a lot more hopeful about humanity.